Welcome back to the fold, everybody! It's been a while... busy life is busy, and with work, play and going to Germany for a games expo, I haven't been updating. You have my most profuse apologies, though if you've stuck with me this far you probably don't need them.
Confession time: that previous chapter was terrible and bad. And terrible. And bad. This one will be better, I promise. It took me longer to write, there's far less shouting and it contains a party. Everyone likes a good partay.
Note to self: never write or say 'partay' ever again.
'Stephen Stills! Hey, Stephen Stills!' called Scott, Stills' head snapping round so fast he cricked his neck. Scott and Ramona appeared from among the thronging mass of party guests, Ramona wearing a decidedly less cheerful expression.
'Hey, Scott.' he answered with a breath of relief. 'Hi there, Rammy. Man, it's good you're here… Julie's been giving me hell.'
'That figures.' Ramona said quietly. 'Scott, I need a drink. A strong one. Like, now.'
'Sure, sure. You want anything, Stephen Stills?' Scott asked, pulling up a chair for his girlfriend.
'Uh… I'll come with, actually. Hey, Knives! Over here!' he called, Knives extracting herself from a gaggle of Asian teens and approaching, waving cheerfully at Scott and Ramona.
'Oh, good. Knives is here.' Ramona said moodily, her words escaping Stills altogether.
'You guys totally came! That's so awesome!'
'Can you, like, keep Rammy company for a minute? We're… gonna go get some drinks.'
'Yeah, that would be great!' Knives beamed with typical enthusiasm, engaging Ramona in conversation as Stills led Scott to the bar.
'Are you crazy?!' Scott hissed the moment they were out of earshot. 'You brought Knives to a Julie party? What were you even thinking? You know she totally hates Knives!'
'I know, I know! Chill out, Scott.' Stills said, both hands raised calmingly. 'It's not really that big of a deal.'
'Not really that big of a-' Scott began explosively, but Stills cut him off.
'It isn't, Scott. I actually talked to Julie earlier… I kind of yelled at her, actually.' Stills explained.
'Seriously? You yelled at Julie Powers? What did you say?' Scott said, starting to calm down.
'Well, I just explained to her that she was a total bitch who never made me feel wanted and that I had realised that it takes two people caring to make a relationship worthwhile.'
'Wow. That was… deep, dude.' Scott said, mildly stunned. 'So you're really done with her? You 're happy with Knives?'
'Uh, yeah… that's kind of the thing.' Stills muttered as they reached the bar, which was swarming with people clamouring for a drink. 'Knives was kind of drunk, see, and she told me something she probably didn't mean to.'
'Oh. Was it-'
'Did you know Knives made out with Kim?' Stills asked sharply, looking directly at Scott.
'Well… yes. It was that night after we'd been to the beach, remember? We were all basically passed out in Julie's house or whatever.'
'I don't think it was actually Julie's house…'
'Whatever. Anyway, you guys made me go and look for Kim and Knives, because they'd gone off somewhere. And I went upstairs to look for them, right? Well, I found them in one of the bedroom, really drunk on tequila or something, and they were totally making out. I didn't tell anyone… I figured Kim would get mad.'
'Right… so they made out? Jeez…' Stills sighed, casually brandishing a wad of notes at the bespectacled girl behind the bar.
'Is that some kind of problem?'
'Yes! Doesn't it bother you at all that the girl I'm now dating – that you set me up with, by the way – is your ex, and she got to second base with one of our best friends, who also happens to also be your ex!?' Stills said in exasperation. Scott frowned, before shaking his head slowly.
'Um… no. No, it doesn't bother me.' he said with a sense of deliberateness unusual for him. 'Me and Knives were over a long time ago, and me and Kim got closure. It's over between me and them, and I really don't mind who they date. I have Rammy now, and Kim's with Daniel anyway.'
'I don't think Kim's with anyone, Scott. But… you're right, for once. I shouldn't let it bother me, should I?'
'Four gin and tonics, please.' Scott asked the bartender, exchanging his money for the drinks and turning back to face his friend. 'No, you shouldn't. I mean, I don't worry about all the people Rammy's slept with, do I? And I'm pretty sure she's had sex with kind of a lot of guys… and some girls, apparently.'
'No, you usually beat them up. I'm not sure if I would call that 'not worrying', Scott.' Stills smirked, taking a beer from the bar and tossing a few crumpled notes in its place.
'That's not fair! They always come to beat me up first!' Scott scowled, the pair of them wending their way through the crowd to where their girlfriends sat waiting.
'…and then he totally told her off for being such a bitch!' Knives beamed, oblivious to Ramona's slightly glazed expression. Scott handed her two glasses, taking one back almost immediately as she drained the first gin and tonic in one, giving a small cough.
'Ugh… that's actually a lot better. I think I just need to relax a bit.' she said, exhaling deeply.
'Enjoy that drink while you can!' Stills laughed. 'I doubt we're going to be going to any of Julie's parties anytime soon. This might be our last hurrah, guys.'
'Well then we should make it an excellent one!' exclaimed Knives tipsily, almost falling from her chair.
'You know, I'm amazed you're letting her drink. How old is she again?'
'She's eighteen now. She's an adult, and she can drink if she wants to. I've cut her off for tonight, though… I think she's already had about three glasses of champagne.'
'Knives? An adult? Yeah, right.' Ramona grinned, watching the eighteen-year-old slump sideways across Stills' lap. He raised a hand and stroked her hair absently.
'You know, you two make a cute couple.' Scott commented with a wry smile.
'Thanks.' Stills replied lazily, leaning his own head back and closing his eyes as he took a long swig of beer. 'Hey, d'you think we should tell Ramona about that thing?' he asked. Scott did not reply, his voice cut off by the heavily muscled arm that pressed against his throat, crushing his windpipe. Ramona leapt to her feet in alarm, tossing her drink aside as Scott's assailant tightened his grip, choking a strangled gasp from his prey. He pressed down harder, only for Scott to suddenly reach up and seize his wrists, ducking and throwing his attacker forwards in one swift movement. The figure landed gracelessly on his feet, staggering forwards slightly as he steadied himself.
'Damn it, Pilgrim.' the figure muttered, turning to reveal a tired face, eyes alive with glittering anger. He had long and straggly hair of dark brown that framed his face perfectly, and he wore a plain black jacket and jeans over his muscular body, giving him an air of brutish power.
'Who… hah… who are you?' Scott demanded, nursing his throat breathlessly.
'Not important.' the man replied shortly, raising his fists and lashing out at Scott with one burly fist. He parried hurriedly, blocking the punch and returning the attack with a rapid kick to the shins.
'Hang on a minute…' Ramona mumbled, watching the two men trade blows as Stills pulled Knives away from the fight. 'Oh my god, Doug?!'
'Doug? Wait, I remember that name!' Scott exclaimed, ducking under a sweeping kick and launching a flurry of swift jabs at his opponent's chest. 'Isn't he your ex?!'
'That's right, Pilgrim.' Doug answered before Ramona could open her mouth, grunting as a crushing punch connected with Scott's temple, sending him staggering sideways.
'I thought you said he wasn't evil!' he shouted, clutching his head.
'Well, he wasn't before…' she muttered in response, reaching to her hip and unzipping the Subspace Suitcase. Doug advanced towards Scott, brushing aside a small horde of partygoers as he went and leaping forwards with a brutal kick that caught his dazed foe unaware. Scott yelped in pain and frustration as he clattered backwards into a table, upending it.
'What the hell is going on?!' screeched Julie, appearing from nowhere as Scott struggled to his feet, brushing crushed snack food from his shoulders. 'Scott Pilgrim! I just knew it!'
'Uh, Julie…' he began weakly, eying Doug cautiously as he approached them.
'I cannot believe you! You turn up at my party – which, by the way, I never even invited you to – and you start some crazy fight for literally no reason whatsoever-'
'Hey! Hey, that's not fair!' Scott protested hotly. 'I didn't even start it! He just came up to me and – ah!' He threw himself backwards, narrowly avoiding Doug's slicing kick.
'Who are you? Who the hell are you?!' Julie yelled at him, drawing his attention away from Scott. 'I definitely didn't invite you!'
'Get out of my way.' Doug growled, flexing his muscles threateningly. Julie remained unfazed, however.
'Or what?! Are you going to hit me?'
'Look, I'm not going to punch a girl…' he muttered.
'I guess you think that gives you some kind of moral high ground, huh?' a voice called from the crowd.
'What? I just-' Doug began, but was cut off by another partygoer's cry.
'You're just a pussy, you know that?!'
'Yeah, go home, loser!' a third voice taunted. Doug span around angrily, glaring at the mass of guests who had formed a ring around them.
'Shut your stupid – ugh!' he snarled as Ramona's hammer smashed into his torso at full pelt, sending him literally flying across the room and through the glass doors. He rolled out onto the balcony, groaning as he writhed in the shards of shattered glass. 'Ouch.'
'I am seriously not in the mood for your crap right now, Doug.' She growled, advancing towards the balcony, Scott in tow. Doug got unsteadily to his feet, dusting himself off.
'Just leave it, Ramona. I'm not here to fight you anyway – I came to take Pilgrim down.'
'No way! I have had it up to here with you people!' Julie screeched, stepping in between Doug and Ramona with a furious scowl. 'Get out of my apartment right now!' She pointed an angry finger at the door.
'What? We were only…' Scott mumbled.
'All out you! Out!'
'So I guess Dallas sent you?' Ramona asked quietly as they stood bundled into the tiny metal box, Doug standing slightly apart from the other four.
'Yeah.' he replied in a deadened tone, avoiding her gaze.
'Why are you working for him? You never worked for Gideon and the Guild or anything.'
'The League…' Scott corrected under his breath.
'He must have offered you something.' she continued, ignoring him.
'Sure he did. He said he'd pay me to kill Pilgrim.' Doug answered, crossing his arms with mild satisfaction.
'I'm sorry, what?' Ramona said in disbelief.
'Did he actually just say that?' Knives whispered in Stills' ear.
'I think he did…' he replied slowly, staring at Doug.
'Are you serious? He's paying you to kill Scott?' Ramona fumed. 'What are you, like a hitman now?!'
'Well, hitman isn't what I'd call it…'
'Assassin? Scott inquired innocently.
'No, it's not-'
'Shut up! It's really a lot of money!' Doug grumbled plaintively.
'I see you haven't changed at all.' Ramona remarked dryly.
'What's that supposed to mean?'
'You're still kind of a dick.' she replied.
'I like elevators…' Scott giggled quietly.
'You know, this is kind of a cliché.' Stills commented, draining the bottle in his hand and tossing it nonchalantly over his shoulder. He rested one arm around Knives, the couple standing beside Ramona as Scott and Doug faced off across the street.
'It is?' Scott asked, turning around to face them.
'Yeah, you know, 'taking it outside'. That's totally a cliché.'
'Uh, Scott…' Knives mumbled meekly, pointing over Scott's shoulder. He ducked just in time, whirling around and seizing Doug's outstretched arm, dropping down and throwing him overhead. Doug rolled across the pavement, leaping onto his feet and charging back at Scott. Doug's fist narrowly missed Scott's head, Scott lashing out with one foot and knocking Doug back.
'Huh. Can't… can't believe you're still fighting for that stupid bitch.' Doug gasped, straightening up and raising his fists.
'Don't talk about Rammy like that!' Scott shouted hotly.
'Rammy? Wow, that's bad.'
'Shut up!' Scott yelled, tearing the Power Of Understanding from his chest and pointing it at his opponent. 'She's right… you are a total dick.'
'Sorry, Pilgrim…' Doug chuckled, calmly watching Scott heft the sword in his hands. 'You just brought a sword to an axefight.' He smiled and clicked his fingers, a whirling dervish of green flames exploding into life around his hand. The fire crackled and expanded, forming a rapidly spinning ring of emerald that swirled and shifted, its edges suddenly solidifying into a shower of white-hot sparks. Doug clenched his fist, snatching a double-headed axe from the air as the flames shimmered, retreating until only the twin edges of black metal were aflame with green.
Doug equipped the Power Of Greed!
+5 to Strength
+3 to Will
-10 to Generosity
'Still want to do this?' Doug hissed, reversing his grip on the axehandle and spinning it over his head in a wide arc.
'Bring it!' Scott shouted confidently in response.
'Alright then, Scott Pilgrim… let's dance.' Doug span on the spot, bringing the axe crashing down onto the ground, a lance of emerald flame speeding towards Scott. He threw himself aside, rolling where he landed and charging at Doug, slashing furiously with his sword. His rapid blows were countered with equal speed, the flaming axe whirling at a dizzying pace, leaving green rings burning in Scott's vision as he stabbed forwards, catching Doug with a glancing blow to the arm. Doug levelled his weapon and parried, pushing Scott backwards and dashing towards him, slicing outwards and barely missing Scott's neck. Scott swung his sword, cutting upwards and flinching as the blades connected with shattering impact. Showers of sparks mixed with green and white light skittered to their feet as they fought.
'Not bad with a blade, then.' Doug muttered, swinging the axe horizontally with deadly force. Scott stepped smoothly out of the way, slashing upwards sharply but recoiling as Doug rolled the axe in his palms, the Power Of Understanding clattering ineffectually against the flat of the blade. Doug raised the axe high above his head, eyes glinting with green light as he brought the blade crashing down towards his foe. Scott raised his sword defensively, struggling to block and managing to turn aside the axe, but Doug was relentless, striking again and again, Scott's defences becoming weaker and weaker with each blow. As he barely managed to roll away from a crushing strike, Doug brought his weapon down one final time, the axeblade clashing with Scott's sword. Green fire exploded where the blades met, the Power Of Understanding shattering with a shockwave of pure force, sending Doug staggering backwards as Scott fell to the ground, the shards of metal dissolving into swirling indigo dust as they hit the ground.
'Huh. That all you got?' Doug muttered with disdain. He advanced slowly, holding out the axe with one hand, smiling coolly as the axe shifted, the metal cracking and flexing until it became a razor-edged spear with a single, cruel point. 'Time to die, Pilgrim.'
'Scott!' Ramona yelled as Doug took hold of the spear with both hands, preparing to drive it through Scott's chest. Scott's eyes darted towards the source of the sound, seeing a metallic blur from the corner of his eye and rising, one hand outstretched, catching the hilt of the Power Of Love as it spiralled through the air towards him. He leapt to his feet, time seeming to stand still as Doug's spear missed him by inches and he brought the Power Of Love slicing through the air, cutting the spear neatly in two.
'Oh, hell no-' Doug began, straightening up and tossing aside the spear's blunt end, bringing the point to bear, but Scott swatted it aside with his blade, leaping forwards and driving his sword into the ground. He pivoted around it, launching himself into the air, and delivered a brutal kick the Doug's face, his foot connecting with Doug's skull with a satisfying slam. Doug disintegrated, a tsunami of loose change scattering to the ground as Knives whooped in celebration, giving Stephen a rib-crushing hug. Ramona strolled across the sea of coins, a wry smile on her face as she zipped the Subspace Suitcase shut.
'Thanks for the save...' Scott panted, wrenching the Power Of Love from the pavement and letting it flash out of existence in a swirl of red flame.
'You're welcome. Love always beats greed, I guess.' she smiled, taking his hand. 'It's getting kind of late… let's go home.'
'I, uh… I don't have my key.' Scott mumbled sheepishly. 'Please don't lock me out again…'
'I don't know, Scott.' she teased, smirking as they wandered home together, Stills and Knives departing in the opposite direction. 'You know the rule…'
'Come on, Rammy! Please…?' he pleaded.
'Well, I think I can let it slide just this once.' she relented, squeezing his hand in hers. 'But only because I want someone to snuggle up to. It's pretty cold out.'
'I don't really feel the cold… you know, Canadian and stuff.' he replied dreamily. 'But… I would like that.'
Daniel lay flat on his back in his bed, fully clothed, on top of the covers. Two glasses of whiskey hung in midair not far from his hand, as though suspended on invisible wires. Kim sat beside him at the head of the bed, her back against the wall, her arms folded loosely around her legs, her chin resting atop her knees.
'You don't have to tell me about it.' she said suddenly, breaking their long-held silence. 'I… I do want to know what happened, but I get it if you don't want to get into it. I… understand.' Daniel gave a small chuckle.
'I… doubt that you do understand. Please don't take that the wrong way, it's just… nobody should be put through the hell that Thorne put us through. It was brutal.' He raised a hand, plucking a glass from the air and draining it with a slight cough.
'I know you don't-'
'Hey, don't worry about me. We got through it… thanks to you and Scott. If he hadn't been there, I don't know what Seth would have had me do…' he trailed off, staring blankly at the ceiling. 'He had us trapped in his own little twisted world, you see. A virtual reality – a computer simulation – in which he controlled everything there was to control, effortlessly.'
'Like you and Subspace?' Kim asked, taking a sip of her own whiskey.
'Not exactly. He could create whatever he pleased at a whim. I may own this particular dimension of Subspace, but it still conforms to the most basic rules of physics and matter, though I can bend them to a certain degree. And this house: he could make something like this appear in an instant there, while I had to build this place with my bare hands… metaphorically speaking, of course.' he gave a wan smile as the empty glass floated from the room. 'But this house is real. This beach is real. What seemed to exist in his world was an illusion, a computerised world. He tortured us in there, Kim. He threatened to hurt Ramona unless I inflicted the same pain on myself… then he just hurt her anyway.'
'But you did it? To try and stop him from hurting Ramona?'
'Of course. Of course I did… it was just pain. Physical pain, broken bones, cuts and bruises… I can bear that. I couldn't live with the pain of knowing that Ramona suffered because of me.'
'Why?' asked Kim, the single syllable filled with pity unbecoming of her. 'Do… do you love her?'
'I did. In a way, I still do. She's my oldest, closest friend. It would have been wrong just to let Seth hurt her… I couldn't have done it.' he fell silent, neither of them speaking for several seconds.
'Thank you.' Daniel said quietly.
'For staying here. That was… kind of you.'
'-really do kind.' Daniel finished. 'I know. But seriously, thanks. It helps.'
'It's… uh, it's just what friends do.' Kim muttered, cursing herself mentally for saying that out loud.
'Is that what we are, Kim Pine?' he asked, rising to a seated position and swivelling around to face her, his unblinking gaze matching hers. 'Friends?'
'Where are you going with this, Daniel?' Kim asked sharply.
'I've been trying to work out how to word this… I'm not exactly the biggest confronter of feelings… so I'll just say it as it is: I like you, Kim. I don't need you to say anything back; I just wanted you to know that. I don't know what it is about you… I just feel better when you're around, and I know that you are kind and caring deep down, I just know it.'
'Daniel, I-' Kim began, but he swiftly raised a finger to her lips. She felt a soft sensation of gentle warmth spread through her body, felt her mind relaxing.
'I know, Kim. And I'm not going to push this onto you. However long it takes, I'll wait.' He removed his finger, the warm feeling dissipating almost immediately.
'It's just… it's so complicated, isn't it?' she said, Daniel nodding wordlessly in agreement. 'With Scott and Ramona, and Dallas and Gideon and all the… yeah.'
'If you don't want it to work, it won't work. I understand that. So find out if you really do want it to work… and I'll wait for you.' he whispered, leaning in close and kissing her gently on the forehead. She felt herself become drowsy, sleep beckoning her away as his lips broke away from her skin and she fell into a reverie of dreams.
Kim awoke alone in Daniel's room, spread-eagled haphazardly on the bed. Its owner was nowhere to be seen.
'Daniel?' she called woozily, propping herself up and noticing as she did so a small note lying on her chest. She unfolded it, rubbing her eyes. 'Gone to see S+R. Door on beach.' it read. She got up slowly, the note dropping to the floor, making a cursory attempt to neaten the bedclothes before leaving the room. She wandered down the hallway, stooping to pluck her jacket from the floor where she had thrown it the night before, and out through the front door, which stood wide open as usual, the warm air of the beach wafting through. The twin suns rested high in the sky, overlapping slightly like a colossal figure-of-eight, illuminating the shore and making the sea glitter and sparkle. An entrance to Subspace was indeed present on the sand, though 'door' was rather a tenuous term, as the portal was a shimmering archway of blackness that floated barely an inch above the ground. She zipped up her jacket, bracing herself as the cool wind of Subspace hit her, sweeping her through the archway and into the dark beyond.
'…I can't manage this weekend. I'm sorry, I just totally forgot – oh, hey, Kim.' Daniel said as Kim fell into a chair at the Second Cup. Scott and Ramona sat opposite him, Scott looking mildly incensed while Ramona sipped her tea nonchalantly. 'Black coffee, right?' Daniel asked, offering her a cup.
'Yeah, thanks… uh, what're you talking about?' she said, accepting the cup and indicating Scott's stern expression.
'Well, I was just telling Scott that-'
'-that you're totally flaking out on us?! Was that what you were going to say? Because you so are.' Scott fumed.
'That's not how I was going to put it…' Daniel muttered.
'Wait, what's that supposed to mean? What do you mean, flaking out?' Kim inquired, frowning.
'Well, apparently the Band Without A Name aren't doing a gig on Saturday.' Scott grumbled.
'Wow, you guys really need to come up with a name for that…' Ramona said quietly, shaking her head.
'Look, I've kind of got a… thing… this weekend. I'm going away for a couple of days, so I cancelled the show and set one up at that Cameron House place next week, on Thursday.' Daniel explained apologetically.
'Why? Where are you going?' Ramona asked, suddenly interested. Daniel turned his head, avoiding her stare.
'It's not really that big of a deal. I'll only be gone for a little while.'
'Come on, dude!' Scott said heatedly. 'If you're going to leave us, at least tell us where you're going.'
'It really doesn't matter…'
'No, tell us.' Kim said, folding her arms. 'What are you going to do?'
'I… fine, fine. I've… got a show.' Daniel admitted.
'What? You mean, on your own?' Scott asked, bemused.
'Yeah… I just forgot about it. It was set up ages ago, and it got pushed back, but I still have to go. I've got a pretty dedicated fanbase out there, apparently. I don't know…'
'So where is this show?' said Kim, scowling.
'Uh… the Chaos Theatre. In New York.'
'What?! Are you kidding me?' Ramona yelled, thumping the table with her fist and making Scott jump in alarm. 'You were going to work for Gideon?!'
'No.' Daniel replied in calm, measured tones. 'Do you know why I accepted that gig? I did it to make sure you were okay. I wanted to get close to Gideon, find out what sort of a person he was. But you… well, you vanished before I even met the guy, so, yeah…' There was a long pause, punctuated only by the sound of Knives Chau fumbling with a stack of trays behind the counter.
'Really?' Ramona said finally. 'You wanted to see if I was okay?'
'Of course. But anyway, the Theatre was repossessed by an old friend of mine, and my contract is still good, so I'm doing the show.' he said, clicking his fingers and materialising a second cup of tea in front of Ramona. 'You would be welcome to come, if you'd like. Your other friends too, Scott.'
'R-really?! Is this happening? Are we going to American? No, America?' Scott blustered in disbelief.
'Sure. We could go today, actually, make a week of it. Sound good?' Daniel said casually, looking to Kim. She gave slight shrug of confirmation.
I'd be up for that, too.' Ramona said, nodding. Scott's eyes darted around the table, bewildered.
'I… uh… okay?' he managed weakly.
'Excellent. Can I count on Miss Chau and your friend Stephen to come?' Daniel inquired, standing.
'Um… yeah, and young- uh, and Neil, too. And Stacey, I guess. Oh, and Wallace and Mobile.' he mumbled.
'You're really still not over Neil dating your sister, are you?' Kim smirked. Scott shook his head miserably.
'Alright then… that makes ten of us. I'll make a hotel reservation. We'll leave at eight this evening, meet at Ramona's place.' He dematerialised, leaving the three of them sitting together, mildly stunned. Ramona opened her mouth to speak but was cut off by Daniel re-appearing by her side for a brief moment. 'Oh, and Kim? Bring the car to my place first.'
'You got all your stuff?' Ramona asked as she zipped the Subspace Suitcase shut, leaning by her front door as Scott lugged a regular suitcase out of the hall. Stephen and Knives sat atop their own suitcases in the garden, Neil standing beside them with a smaller bag slung over his shoulder and his other arm wrapped around Stacey's waist. Wallace was inside the house with Mobile, no doubt constructing something alcoholic from the few ingredients in Ramona's kitchen. There was no sign of Kim or Daniel.
'Yeah, it's all packed up in here.' he said with unnecessary pride. 'I've got my guitar, my videogames thing…'
'Your clothes?' Ramona asked as he heaved the suitcase through the doorway.
'Um… damn it!' Scott cursed, trying to manoeuvre back around the suitcase to push it back inside. 'Why didn't you just let me put my stuff in your bag?'
'I don't want your junk getting mixed up with my stuff!' she giggled as Scott struggled to lift the suitcase.
'I'll do it, Scott.' Daniel called as Kim's car materialised from thin air on the road, Kim in the driving seat and Daniel lying side-on atop the roof. He slid from the car roof as it pulled to a halt, clicking his fingers and smiling as Scott almost collapsed, the suitcase he was trying to lift suddenly gaining weight. It drifted from his grasp, Stephen and Knives jumping up as their own baggage flew from underneath them, the car boot popping open and the bags slotting neatly into place. Neil staggered forwards in alarm as his bag yanked itself from his shoulder and drifted into the boot. 'Everybody ready?' Daniel asked. 'Where are your… gay friends?'
'Wallace is with Mobile in the kitchen.' Ramona answered. 'I'll get them.' She vanished into the house.
'Is his name really Mobile? Is he European or something?' Daniel said as Kim leaned over in the car, opening the door to the passenger seat and letting him inside.
'Yeah, it is pretty weird…' Scott muttered as Daniel got into the car, flinging open the back door as he went. 'Wait, how are all ten of us going to fit in there?'
'Just get in!' Daniel laughed, slamming his own door and fastening his seatbelt. Stephen and Knives approached the car, Stacey and Neil in tow, and climbed inside to reveal a row of eight car seats.
'How did… um…' Knives mumbled, climbing into the impossibly elongated vehicle.
'Whoaaa...' Neil mouthed as they shuffled along, staring in astonishment at the distortion between the front and back seats. It was as though perspective had become fixed, the window seats appearing just as close to the front two as the seats in the middle. Daniel craned his neck to look around at them, grinning widely as Wallace ushered Mobile into the car, shortly followed by Scott and finally Ramona, who appeared unfazed by the bizarrely distorted interior. She tucked the Subspace Suitcase at her feet as the group fastened their seatbelts.
'Let's go!' Scott enthused. Daniel turned around to face the road, slapping the dashboard.
'Okay, let's get what the hell?' he yelled as a figure landed gracefully on the bonnet, raising one fist wreathed in white-hot flames. They recoiled in shock as he drew back is hand, the fire blossoming to an enormous size. Daniel lashed out with a flattened palm, the air rippling as the attacker was thrown bodily from the car, landing in a heap on the road.
'Drive!' Daniel shouted, placing a hand on Kim's shoulder as she floored the accelerator, the car leaping forwards as though fired from a cannon.
'What do you expect me to do, run him over?!' she cried amidst the confusion.
'Don't worry about that!' Daniel yelled, raising a hand and gripping her shoulder tighter as a large garage door marked with a five-pointed star appeared on the road ahead of them, obscuring the crumpled form out their assailant. It swung open just as they came rushing up to meet it, the car shooting through the portal and into the blackness of Subspace, tilting as it curved into freefall. Kim took her foot off the pedals and put her arms behind her head as Daniel closed his eyes, two fingers pressed against his temple.
'What the hell are you doing?! Are we going to die?!' Stephen demanded, clutching tightly onto Knives.
'I'm just looking for a Subspace Highway we can use… direct to New York…' mumbled Daniel in response, tilting his head sideways a fraction. 'Found one.' The car remained at its steep angle, but gravity seemed to shift as a blindingly psychedelic road flickered into existence beneath the wheels, stretching out as far as the eye could see.
'R-remind me why you didn't just teleport us there?' Scott asked, trying to no avail to stop his legs from trembling.
'Where's the fun in that?' Daniel grinned, pointing out of the window at the surreal dreamscape that whipped past the windows. 'Look, birds!' The group craned their collective necks to gaze out of the window, watching as majestic winged forms flew overhead, seemingly made out of little but pure colour and light. Only Kim and Ramona remained sitting where they were, Ramona unsurprised by their surroundings, Kim glaring at the road ahead, hands tight on the steering wheel.
'Is nobody going to ask? Seriously.' she muttered, frowning. 'Hey, Scott!' she called over her shoulder, Scott turning back to face her with a look of mild disappointment.
'Who the hell was that guy back there?'
'Oh, uh… that was Matthew Patel.' Scott answered, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
'I thought you already beat that guy up?' Stills asked, turning away from the window. 'Yeah, it was during that one show we had at the Rockit.'
'I don't remember that…' Knives mumbled, pouting slightly.
'No, that was Matthew Patel.' Scott answered obliviously.
'Um…' Stills frowned, tilting his head at a slight angle. 'Scott, you just said the same guy's name twice.'
'I did? No, wait… Matthew Patel is his brother.' he explained.
'Whose brother?' Stacey chimed in.
'No, Scott, you-' Kim began, shaking her head in exasperation.
'Matthew Patel's brother is called Matthew Patel!' Ramona snapped. 'He had a younger brother, and their parents called them the same name!'
'Wouldn't that get kind of confusing?' Neil asked, pulling a phone from his pocket and starting to play a game.
'You'd think so, wouldn't you…' Ramona muttered.
'It doesn't matter now though, does it? Not since you beat down the first one.' Kim said, twisting the steering wheel slightly to accommodate a gentle curve in the road. 'The one Ramona dated.' she added as an afterthought. 'Hey, how long is this going to take?' She indicated the psychedelic highway stretching out ahead of them. Daniel checked his watch.
'Well, this Subspace dimension operates on a one-per-cent relative spacial physics curve, temporal distortion at about one-fifth, gravitational anomalies null, continuum alteration via simulated atmospherics…' he wound down his window, licking a finger and raising it into the air. '…minimum. Judging by that, we should be over New York in just a few seconds.'
'Wait. Over New York?' Scott asked, but before any of them could react Daniel suddenly reached over with a lightning-fast movement and seized the steering wheel, spinning it rapidly. The car lurched sideways, rotating and tipping, before flipping over entirely in a spectacular fashion, falling through the glittering road as though it didn't exist. There was a blinding flash outside the windows and then they were falling, the car was falling, turning over slowly in the air as it plummeted towards the sprawling mass of concrete far below that was New York City. Knives screamed, a short, sharp sound forced back down her throat as Daniel raised both hands, the car whipping forwards like a jet. They were thrown back into their seats as the car flew like a bird towards the city, lower and lower, until they were gliding silently between buildings, sometimes missing by mere inches. Scott though he saw some of the dots that were people in the streets beneath them pointing, watching Kim's beat-up car soar as though it were a plane, and he laughed.
'This… is… so… cool!' he shouted through gritted teeth as the car sped along a street, high above the mass of taxis and pedestrians. They were thrown against their seatbelts as the car came to a rather abrupt halt in midair, starting to descend steadily before coming to rest on a rooftop. Daniel kicked open his car door, slipping off his seatbelt and stepping into the American morning sun.
'New York, ladies and gentleman… oh, it's good to be back.'
...and another chapter bites the dust. Already started working on the next chapter - you will either be pleased to hear or not give a damn that this fanfic has hit 70000 words. The upcoming chapters will include music, fighting, videogame references, emotional confusion and a giant robot battle. Possibly. If I get enough feedback, I might even consider that emotional confusion thing. Get thee to the review box! Or button, if you happen to be reading this on the mobile version of the site! Or something!
Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have to bleed away my money by preordering an assortment of games, the release dates of which appear to be retreating further and further into the distant future. Ciao!
Pixel Katana - Goes to Gamescom every year, and loves it.